California LifeLine Free Government Phones TruConnect

The California LifeLine free government smartphones program is undergoing some big changes this year, so read on to learn how they may affect your California LifeLine free cell phone service if you are already enrolled in the program, or considering applying.

The big changes that will occur this year were due to take effect last year, but the state of California filed a waiver with the FCC to delay enactment of these changes, which affect the Lifeline program nationwide.  This waiver, which was granted by the FCC to the state of California, relates to the timing of new requirements of the 2016 Lifeline Modernization order, effective December 2, 2016.

The changes California was successfully able to delay until this year are two big ones: 1) Change in qualifying programs and income levels 2) a Port Freeze on how often customers can change California LifeLine providers.

Qualifying Programs Changes
First, the qualifiying programs for California LifeLine are changing. Currently, California residents can qualify for California LifeLine two ways, either being enrolled in a qualifying government program, or by meeting the income level requirements based on household size. Right now, the current qualifying programs are:

  • CalFresh, Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) *
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) or Section 8
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
  • Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit Program
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
    • Stanislaus County Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (StanWORKs)
    • Welfare-to-Work (WTW)
    • Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN)

As of October 31, 2017, California’s temporary waiver will expire, and the new eligible programs for California LifeLine will be as follows:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit Program

The goal of the FCC here is to streamline the eligible programs in recognition of how most Lifeline subscribers qualify for the Lifeline free smartphone program. Life line screening, as many consider it, should focus on the actual ways most people go about Lifeline online enrollment in obtaining a free cell phone or free smartphone.

California LifeLine Program TruConnect

Qualifying Income Level Changes

Currently California residents can qualify for the California LifeLine program if their income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This means that for a given household size, the current qualifying income levels are:

  • 1-2 Household Members: $25,900
  • 3 Household Members: $30,100
  • 4 Household Members: $36,500
  • For each additional person: add $6,400

As of October 31, 2017, the qualifying income levels for California LifeLine will change to 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.  This means that the new qualifying income levels for California LifeLine will change to:

  • 1 Household Member: $16,038
  • 2 Household Members: $21,627
  • 3 Household Members: $27,216
  • 4 Household Members: $32,805
  • For each additional person: add $5,616

So good news here for low income Californians, it will be easier to qualify for a free government smartphone with free cell phone service in California later this year!

TruConnect California LifeLine Provider

Lifeline Benefit Port Freeze

Currently California LifeLine subscribers are free to switch their Lifeline service providers as frequently as every 60 days. The FCC found that this resulted in excess subscriber churn, reducing the incentive for Lifeline providers to participate in the program and offer free government smartphones. To combat this, effective June 1, 2017:

  • California LifeLine subscribers receiving data services may only switch providers as frequently as every 12 months
  • California LifeLine subscribers receiving Lifeline-supported voice services only may still change providers as frequently as every 60 days

So there you have it. If you plan to switch Lifeline providers, don’t wait until after June 1st if you are receiving data with your benefit. TruConnect is currently accepting transfers from other California LifeLine providers, and we would be honored to provide excellent service to your California LifeLine account in the coming years. 

If you are qualifying for California LifeLine with one of the currently eligible programs such as CalFresh or the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), consider enrolling in one of the new qualifying programs, such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Please check back here often, as we will be sharing the latest updates and changes to the California LifeLine program as they happen!